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The Abidjan Principles were developed using international human rights legal standards and jurisprudence, with inputs from stakeholders from various backgrounds — human rights lawyers, education specialists and practitioners, and affected communities — and geographic regions. Specific efforts were made to reach out to communities and rights-holders affected by education policies, in particular by the growth of private actors in education.

They emerged out of a need to respond to the rapid growth of various forms of private involvement in education in the last 20 years which, if left unchecked, could gravely impair the progress made in the realisation of the right to education. UN and other regional human rights bodies , UN Special Rapporteurs, courts, and other human rights institutions have increasingly addressed the issue in the last years. This has led to the development of a myriad of legal sources, which needed to be compiled in a single text to clarify the applicable legal standards. This is what the Abidjan Principles intend to do.


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The Abidjan Principles were developed through an open, transparent, and broadly consultative process that included a variety of perspectives and reflected multiple contextual realities.

From 2016 to 2018, a series of regional, national, and thematic consultations were convened around the world, concluding with an adoption conference in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire by a group of experts in February 2019. A secretariat made up of Amnesty International, the Equal Education Law Centre, the Global Initiative for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, and the Right to Education Initiative facilitated the consultative process.

In addition to the public consultations, the Abidjan Principles were informed by specific inputs from 1) conceptual research and empirical research from a human rights perspective, and 2) expert inputs from a constituency of experts from various backgrounds.

An independent expert, Magdalena Sepúlveda (former UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights), developed a paper (to be published soon) taking stock of the experiences developing human rights principles in the last 20 years. The paper analyses the process and impact of several examples, and served as a guide in developing the Abidjan Principles.

Other background papers produced for the development of the guiding principles are:

  • Trends in and impacts of the growth of private actors in education on the right to education in Francophone countries (Marie France Lange)

  • Trends in and impacts of the growth of private actors in education on the right to education in East African countries (Linda Oduor-Noah)

  • Understanding and questioning the concept of choice in primary and secondary education (Joanna Harma)

  • The liberty dimension of the right to education and its limitation (Roman Zinigrad)

  • A review of and policy proposals regarding different forms of education public- private partnerships (Toni Verger)

  • A review and policy proposals on the history of soft law guidelines and guiding principles (Magdalena Sepulveda)

  • Public funding of private actors in education under human rights law (Sandra Fredman)

  • The legal right to public education and State’s obligations (Jacqueline Mowbray)

These papers are edited by Frank Adamson, Sylvain Aubry, Mireille de Koning and Delphine Dorsi, and will be published soon in an edited volume.